The approximately one hundred nuns at the Surmang Kyelaka nunnery are living in a practice-oriented monastic environment. Before coming to the recently re-opened nunnery, they had participated in a shedra-style study program at the large Yachen monastic complex. Although that type of study continues for the nuns at Kyelaka, led by khenpos and khenmos, it is now only a portion of their daily and monthly activities.
The Kyelaka nuns have to do almost everything pertaining to day-to-day life at the nunnery themselves, whereas at Yachen only a small fraction of those present took care of the practice environment. For example, the musical instruments that are traditionally played at times during a meditation practice or a ceremony–drums, horns, cymbals–are played by the Kyelaka nuns themselves. For those who already know how to do so, instrumental practice refreshes their skills, but many need to learn an instrument for the first time. Older monks from Surmang Dutsi Til serve at teachers for those who need help.
Similarly, the ritual objects used during meditation practices, such as torma, have to be prepared. Doing so well requires considerable skill. See the Kyelaka nuns involved in these kinds of activities this summer in this one minute video: Monastic life at Surmang Kyelaka nunnery.
It has come as a surprise that a significant fraction of the Kyelaka nuns, about 20%, did not learn how to read during their prior studies. They are now being tutored.
The nuns have their own small homes at Kyelaka and do their own food preparation. In large programs, there may be a group meal prepared by the nuns, or at least tea. As with other needs for the nuns, Konchok Foundation provides support to purchase food, usually in bulk.
Over time, the nuns are also being introduced to new types of meditative practices. For example, even though lama dancing was traditionally only performed by men, the Surmang leadership intends to introduce lama dancing to the nuns.
Although practice and study continue year-round for the nuns, the summer is a traditional time for family visits. Most families in Surmang take their yaks to graze at higher altitudes in summer (as compared to the valley floor at approximately 12,500 feet). Many of the nuns paid a visit to their family’s tent encampment at some point during the summer.
Thanks are due to all of the donors who are funding the ongoing operating expenses for the nunnery and for other programs at Surmang. Click here if you’d like to help.